Although French luxury brands are seen highly of, nothing goes so easily for the people. After realizing that being French often means “being cool” in Seoul, the challenge to adapt at Ewha, and to a broader spectrum, in Korean society seemed unconquerable.
The first difficulties appear in class. Ewha offers many English taught courses, but finding a class where English is spoken effectively is hard. This is particularly true in classes where foreigners are rare, as in the College of Art and Design. In here, dropping the class seems best for everyone. Fortunately, some professors and students have strong English skills, and a bit of destination may help find the right courses.
The big challenge for French people is Korean food. It is one of the spiciest foods ever encountered. Yet surprisingly enough, Koreans seem to be unaware of how spicy it is. Even after two semesters, Kimchi still comes as a challenge.
Although Korean cuisine is rich and varied, finding something to eat is tricky. Korean barbecue appears as a solution for most French students at Ewha. Meat is usually on the menu with photos, making everything easier. Of course, fast food is also popular.
At Ewha, international food can be found at Starbucks and Paris Baguette. Still, “real” bread, French cheese, or wine is hard to find. Consequently, exchange students receive birthday packages sent from home countries.
Living in Korea and studying at Ewha are experiencing the meaning of being a stranger in the most intense way.
It is not easy to be a foreigner in South Korea. Since I have blond hair and blue eyes, people gaze and pay attention to every word and action, identifying foreigners as an exterior of society.
Being French, even though it can be so well considerate, creates a feeling of being the subject of curiosity for the best and worst. Though it is ever so easy to get into the best clubs, being invited to a personal household is a rare honor.
After all, foreigners are separated from the Korean society. People never stop treating exchange students as tourists. The attention feels great sometimes, but eventually, foreign students get fed up with it. Not one day, in the two semesters in Korea, have the foreign community forgotten that we are not Korean.
The months in Korea were irreplaceable, but it seems impossible to settle down and start a new life in a society where foreigners will never feel integrated.
* Contributing Writer